It's been another storybook season for Bayside Academy (Daphne, Ala.)
setter Sydney Chandler
Two weeks ago, Chandler became high school volleyball's all-time assist leader when she dished out 25 assists as the Admirals defeated W.S. Neal (East Brewton, Ala.).
Last week, she guided her team to its 12th-straight Alabama state championship by recording 48 assists in a four-set win over Madison Academy. It was the 22nd state volleyball title for Bayside.
For Chandler, who was named MVP of the state tournament, it was five straight.
According to the National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS) Record Book
, Chandler is the new all-time assists leader for four seasons with 6,215. She surpassed the record for career assists – 6,102 – held by Chelsea Wintzinger of Hunstville, Ala., 2006-2009.
"I'm privileged," said the 5-foot-6 Chandler, who carries a 3.98 grade point average and also pitches on the Bayside softball team. She also throws the javelin and discus for the school's track and field team.
Excelling on the volleyball court is something Chandler expects. She does have 7,409 assists in her five-year prep career.
Chandler was the starting setter for the 2009 championship team when she dished out more than 1,100 assists. She was also varsity team captain as an eighth grader – an honor she has received five times.
Chandler, a 2012 MaxPreps All-American, said she wasn't aware that she was closing in on a national record until her dad told her recently.
"No sir, I didn't know until my dad told me a few weeks ago," said Chandler, a perennial all-state selection. "But winning and making my teammates happy is what counts most."
Repeating for a 12th-straight time and getting that fifth ring has been on Chandler's mind this season. After going 65-2 last season with a pair of 6-foot MaxPreps All-Americans in Virginia Pittman and Gabby DeShotel, this season was vastly different.
"Last year was unbelievable ... the best team I ever played on," said Chandler. "This year we didn't have the size. We're more of a ballhandling team and definitely have had to work a lot harder."
Chandler, who had 39 assists recently as Bayside beat McGill-Tooley (the state's top-ranked 6A team), said the team felt more pressure in 2013 than in previous years.
"Every team we play always plays their best game against us," said Chandler. "We always have a target on our back and it makes it harder. But it also makes us feel 10 times better and makes us work harder. If someone comes at me hard, I am going to go at them 10 times harder."
It's that desire "not to lose," that sets Chandler above all others, said Bayside coach Ann Schilling.
"She's a true competitor," said Schilling, who has led Bayside to 18 of its 21 state titles. "She hates to lose and that's who you want running the floor. She plays bigger than she is. She has small hands for a setter, but her intangibles are unlimited."
For the most part, those intangibles are merely Chandler's love for the game.
"I love everything about this game. I love fast-paced sports," she said. "I like winning because I put so much hard work in and it pays off. When I'm on the court, I play to win. I come from a winning environment."
Chandler, who earned the nickname "Sizzle" because of her hot serves, said her passion for volleyball and wanting to win make her a team player. And that is what makes her the No. 1 assist leader of all time.
"I talk a lot and I'm aggressive and very visible on the court. In volleyball, you interact with everyone," said Chandler. "I'm determined to keep everyone happy."
In addition, Schilling says Chandler has a "ton of heart."
"Normally, you want your setter to have big hands and more reach, but I wouldn't trade Syd for anybody," said Schilling. "Just in grit and determination, she's as good as any I've seen. She's a tremendous leader and motivator."
Schilling added, "She gets the concept overall and when your setter does that, it takes you, as a team, a long way. She plays antenna to antenna."
And "grit" might be an understatement.
During last year's state tournament run, Chandler tore ligaments in an ankle two weeks before the state finals and sat out two days, but returned for state.
"I sucked it up and and played in state," said Chandler, who was named to the All-Tournament team.
That wasn't Chandler's first obstacle. Fifteen years ago as a 2-year old, she fell into a fire and received third-degree burns on her hands and legs. After multiple surgeries and therapies, she was left with one thumb having less than normal range of motion, but otherwise recovered to have normal use in both hands.
"It feels normal now, except for my thumb, but it doesn't bother me that much," said Chandler, who enjoys hunting and fishing when away from the court.
But she'd rather be playing volleyball. She played her first club game when she was 8.
"My parents (Bryan and Ree Chandler) got me started in volleyball when I was very young," said Chandler. "My mother played for McGill-Tooley and when I was young we'd play every Sunday after church. It's been a part of our lives."
That experience paid off when as a seventh-grader, she was pulled up to the varsity team for the 2008 state tournament.
"I just sat on the bench and watched," said Chandler, who noted she did not receive a state title ring that year. "Coach (Schilling) wanted me to see what it was like, figuring I would be the setter as an eighth-grader."
After piling up more than 1,100 assists as an eighth-grader, they have come in bunches - so much so that a calculator is needed to keep track.
Chandler didn't reach the NFHS single-season record of 2,351, set by Kim Schaper (Kalamazoo Central, Mich.) in 1996. Chandler's top assist season is 1,669 in 2012, which places her 11th on NFHS single-season list.
Though she came close, Chandler did not reach the Alabama prep career record held by Chelsea Wintzinger, who in five seasons for Huntsville (2005-09) tallied 7,655.
Chandler's fine with that. After all, she didn't know she was near the NFHS all-time career mark until recently.
And playing well and helping others play well is what motivates Chandler.
"Her volleyball I.Q. is very good," said Schilling. "She's very bright and has a high level of understanding of what we're trying to do as a team."
And that is to win state titles.
After all her high school assists are totaled, Chandler said she'll focus on grades and preparing herself for college. She's undecided, noting that mostly NCAA Division II and NAIA schools have shown interest in her volleyball skills.
"My weakness is my lack of height. It won't get me many opportunities," she said, "Other than that, I'm pretty strong all around."
Chandler is waiting for that right opportunity.
"If someone gives me an opportunity," she said. "I'll play libero or be a defensive specialist. I'll work very hard to help my team."
You don't need a calculator for that intangible.